Essay Siddhartha River Symbolism In Huck

Siddhartha Essay: The Symbols Of The Smile And The River In Siddhartha

The Symbols of the Smile and the River in Siddhartha


    An important symbol in Siddhartha is the smile. Each of the three characters in the story who attain a final state of complete serenity is characterized by a beautiful smile which reflects their peaceful, harmonious state. In each case this smile is a completely natural phenomenon; it cannot be created at will by people who have not attained the prerequisite state of harmony with life.

The first character who is described as possessing this smile is Gotama, the Buddha. When Siddhartha first sees him, he recognizes him immediately, largely on account of this mysterious smile. Gotama is imperturbable and he retains his smile - and his equanimity - even when Siddhartha engages in debate with him. As Gotama turns to leave, it is his smile which most deeply impresses Siddhartha, for in it the peace and saintliness of the Buddha is epitomized. The narrator comments that Siddhartha was to remember this smile for the rest of his life.

Vesudeva also possesses the mystical smile of peace and harmony. A man of very few words, the ferryman often allows his smile to speak for him, and it is a more effective agent of expression than any words could possibly have been. Like the Buddha, Vasudeva is satisfied that he is at peace with the world, and with existence.

Siddhartha does not possess this radiant smile at first. He sees it in Gotama and Vasudeva and recognizes its significance, but is too engrossed in physical things to be able to smile serenely himself. First, with the Samanas, he concentrates on mastering his bodily needs. Then, through Kamala and Kamaswami, he learns to enjoy sensual pleasures and soon masters this aspect of life. Finally his love of his son and then his sense of pain over losing the boy keep him from attaining serenity. Only when the ferryman takes his final leave, and Siddhartha gazes into his face and listens to the message of the river, does he finally acquire a radiant smile like that of his friend, signifying his own attainment of a state of Unity.

The smile, like the river, suggests perfection and unity, and it is Siddhartha's smile that makes such a strong impression on Govinda at the close of the story. Just as Siddhartha perceived unity and perfection by listening to and gazing into the river, Govinda comes to feel at least an intimation of the Unity of all things by looking into Siddhartha's face and experiencing a genuine emotional response to the saintless revealed in his smile.

The smile and one aspect of the much more complicated river are closely related. Each suggests unity and harmony, and each is associated with Siddhartha at key junctures in his life. Although Gotama possesses the smile, the absence of the river as a significant factor in his life suggests that the smile is symbolic of one aspect of existence, whereas the river must also signify the World of the Mother, a world with which the Buddha has...

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Essay Meaning of the River in Siddhartha

1199 Words5 Pages

Meaning of the River in Siddhartha

 

Siddhartha, in Herman Hesse's novel, Siddhartha, is a young, beautiful, and intelligent Brahmin, a member of the highest and most spiritual castes of the Hindu religion, and has studied the teachings and rituals of his religion with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Inevitably, with his tremendous yearning for the truth and desire to discover the Atman within himself he leaves his birthplace to join the Samanas. With the Samanas he seeks to release himself from the cycle of life by extreme self-denial but leaves the Samanas after three years to go to Gotama Buddha. Siddhartha is impressed by the blissful man but decides to lead his own path. He sleeps in the ferryman's hut and…show more content…

It was not flesh and bone, it was not thought or consciousness. That was what the wise men taught. Where then was it?"(6). He is thinking of taking another path to the self because he believes that he learned as much as he can from the Brahmins. With the Samanas his lifestyle changes dramatically and " [he] had one single goal-to become empty, to become empty of thirst, desire, dreams, pleasure and sorrow- to let the Self die"(14). As a Samana, he wanted to let the Self die in order to reach the secret of pure being. The Samanas believed they could lose the Self through meditation, fasting, and holding of breath. In a relatively short time with the Samanas he is already on the path to becoming a great Samana. When he went through a village he his view of things was that " everything lied, stank of lies; they were all illusions of sense, happiness and beauty"(14). He called the people "child people" because their whole life was materialistic and they were always concerned with trivial matters. Govinda could see that Siddhartha would become an important Samana but Siddhartha became skeptical about this way of life. Siddhartha tells Govinda, " What I have learned so far from the Samanas, I could have learned more quickly and easily in every inn in a prostitute's quarter, amongst the carriers and dice players"(16). Govinda was appalled but Siddhartha explained that he said this because he believes that meditation, fasting and holding of

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